One of the ways we have re-organized the house to create a well integrated and safe environment for the baby and dogs is to set up a couple of safe spots for dogs to go when the baby is playing in her playgym or bouncy seat.
Here’s Ranger on his tether that gives him room to stand up, turn around, and get comfortable on his big comfy bed:
A simple physical restraint makes it much safer to leave the baby on the floor playing with the other kids while I go do dishes, or have her in the bouncy while I run to switch the laundry. And Ranger is not bothered by it at all; he just snoozes away.
One caveat if you want to try a tether is that you need to introduce and use the tether in a way that your dog will not be frightened of it or get over-excited while on it. It should be a simple gentle physical boundary of “oh, can’t go any further”, not a scary hard limit that your dog pulls against in pain or fear. If your dog is afraid of hitting the end of the leash, or alternatively chokes himself on it, don’t use the tether without re-training with the help of a professional!
Another caution is that you need to make sure mobile babies or older children are not approaching a tethered dog – the intent is NOT to make the dog a sitting duck for unwanted attention. A “safe spot” is only safe if it protects both kids AND dogs!
Just today I was reading some research about dog-dog aggression and something struck me – in a year of observations, 78% of the aggression in a doggy playgroup was because of an approach or attempted friendly displays from one dog to another. Now, it is not wise to assume that canine interactions will mirror how dogs interact with us, but it demonstrates that personal space is really important to dogs, even if the intended interaction is friendly and the dog knows it.
Because of this, I also set up a kennel area in the living room. Here is Lady trying it out.
This creates a barrier that will provide a larger buffer against kids playing, running into her, or going to flop on top of her. Lady is old and arthritic so she cannot jump up to escape obnoxious children like she used to – it’s important to be aware of changes like these in your dogs, respect them, and find a proactive solution instead of waiting for an incident to happen.
These spots will remain in flux as the baby grows; we’ll also use baby gates, kennels behind baby gates, closed doors, the great outdoors, and other ways to create safe separation when supervision is limited. There’s not one “right” solution or right spot, but there IS a way to manage any household in a way that can keep dogs in the home and part of the family while still ensuring that your little ones do not get trompled or chomped.
Please note that smart confinement in the context of a well rounded day of exercise, training, down time, affection, and romping in the yard is not mean or isolating to your dog! I don’t recommend keeping a dog tethered for long periods of time or without someone in the home to attend to him if he gets caught up in it somehow, and I don’t recommend crating a dog all day just so a child can roam the house. But using these tools in a limited manner is a wise choice that will help keep a family safe and happy through the stressful baby and toddler years.